There is no doubt that in the coming days, LeBron James will be named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player for the fourth time in the past five seasons.
Based on James’ dominance and the Heat’s remarkable regular season, will he become the NBA’s first unanimous selection for the award?
“I don’t know who else you would vote for,” Chris Bosh said Friday. “No offense to anyone else. That’s just how good he has played.”
James pulled in 85 of the 121 first-place media votes last season. This season, an extra vote was added for fans online.
Of James’ challengers this season, Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, New York’s Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul of the Clippers could have some first-place votes.
In 2000, the Los Angeles Lakers’ Shaquille O’Neal came within one vote of being the first to win the MVP award with a clean sweep. Allen Iverson, who finished seventh in the voting, got the other first-place vote.
James is expected to be officially presented with the Maurice Podoloff Trophy by NBA commissioner David Stern before Miami’s Eastern Conference semifinal opener against either Chicago or Brooklyn on Monday night.
“Until I hear it officially or someone tells me, I haven’t been thinking about it really,” James said Friday.
By winning the MVP award for the fourth time — he won it in his final two seasons with the Cavaliers — James moves into some rarified air with some of the game’s all-time greats.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was named MVP six times in his career, with Michael Jordan and Bill Russell winning the award five times each.
James is poised to join Wilt Chamberlain as a four-time winner.
“I haven’t heard anything, don’t have any insider knowledge, but we’re all in unison: He’s earned it,” coach Erik Spoelstra said.
“He’s had an even more historic season than the one before. The beauty of that, if he does earn it, is most people didn’t think he could go to this higher level after last season. Yet he reinvented himself and showed he could.”
Even after winning last season’s MVP award, James found himself questioned and scrutinized going into the 2012 playoffs.
James answered many of his critics with his phenomenal Game6 in the Eastern Conference finals against Boston in which he scored 45 points with 15 rebounds to help Miami stave off elimination.
Counting Game 6 against Boston, James averaged 31.3 points, 11.1 rebounds and 6.3 assists in Miami’s final seven games of the 2012 postseason.
Miami went 6-1 in those games, finishing off the Celtics in seven before beating Oklahoma City in five to claim the franchise’s second NBA title.
The MVP of the 2011-12 season and the 2012 NBA Finals, James later won a gold medal with Team USA at the London Games in August. A lot of the scrutiny James faced not too long ago has dissipated.
“From knowing him and watching him, he has had a swagger he didn’t have before,” Shane Battier said. “He’s usually pretty unflappable, but this year he had a calmness about him that elevated his game to an even higher level. …
“That scrutiny is always going to be there, but I don’t think he cares as much. Good for him.”
This season, James led the Heat to a franchise-record 66 wins and the NBA’s second-longest winning streak at 27 games as he shot a career-best 56.5 percent from the field — including 41 percent from three-point range.
In the opening round of the playoffs against Milwaukee, James — who averaged 26.8 points, 8.0 rebounds and 7.3 assists during the season — averaged more than 24 points with close to eight rebounds and seven assists.
“He deserves it for what he’s done for this team,” Ray Allen said. “We’ve come to expect so many things; he’s set the bar so high. What he does is miraculous every night. It’s well deserved.”
Dwyane Wade (bruised knee) was back at practice Friday after being held out since missing Game 4 against Milwaukee.
Wade said he was taking things “day-to-day and am not going to jump too far ahead of myself” as far as playing Monday.
“It’s a good step in the right direction,” he said. “I’m not here to harp on it. It was good to be back on the court.”
Wade later told ESPN.com he would be ready for Monday’s game.
“He looked good but wasn’t 100 percent,” James said. “He looked good for his first day back.”
• Spoelstra said Jarvis Varnado (calf) was the only player who didn’t participate in Friday’s long practice, one Spoelstra compared to training camp. Said Allen: “We’re doing summer league stuff.”